WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue guard Brittany Rayburn still remembers most of the ugly details from her first college start.
There was the injury that forced the freshman into the lineup, the mistakes she made playing point guard and, of course, hearing her coach recount every miscue at full volume.
The truth is Rayburn was never meant to be a point guard, and the on-the-job training she got that night in Bloomington eventually helped her become one of the best shooters in Purdue womens basketball history.
I used it as a motivating factor, she said Sunday. It told me Coach wants you to be the best and if that takes screaming, thats what it takes.
Rayburn and five other Purdue seniors will play their final home game tonight against fifth-seeded South Carolina in the NCAA womens tournament. The winner heads to Fresno, Calif., for next weekends matchup against top-seeded Stanford or eighth-seeded West Virginia, who play tonight in Norfolk, Va.
Without Rayburn, the fourth-seeded Boilermakers (25-8) might not even be here – a win away from returning to the regional semifinals.
Her forte, of course, is scoring. Rayburn has 1,782 points, sixth most in school history, and is second all-time on the schools three-point list (201).
If she can score at least 10 points against the Gamecocks stingy defense, Rayburn will tie Lyndsay Wisdom-Hylton for No. 6 on the Boilermakers career list of double-figure games (93), too.
It wont be easy against a South Carolina defense that allows 50.4 points per game.
But Rayburn didnt get here by taking the path of least resistance. With only one trip to the round of 16 and no Final Four appearances, she isnt ready to end her college career in West Lafayette. She still dreams of making the trip to Denver in two weeks.
It would be awesome, Rayburn said. As a senior, you want to play the best basketball you can. Getting to the Elite Eight a couple of years ago was an unbelievable experience, and I can guarantee you all six of the seniors on this team want to do that again and take it a step farther.
The Gamecocks (24-9) have similar plans after producing their best season in a decade.
Saturdays first-round blowout, 80-48 over 12th-seeded Eastern Michigan, has put South Carolina on the verge of its first regional semifinal appearance since 2002.